Augustine of Hippo. Can he be called a “debuauch”?
Note: All of us have to learn to “call a spade a spade” That is what our distinguished and frankly speaking friend Pamplanil is doing, what Voltaire has done and what this know-nothing try to do, unconcerned about whether it would please some big GUYS or those who think themselves BIG!
In any case our columnist has done a priceless, matchless service to the readers of CCV in revealing the true face of Augustine briefly and brightly: the great sinner who reduced all sins to SEX because that was his weakness and also of the Catholic church, especially these days.
What is sin?
As for me there is nothing called SIN! That is what I heard at the “Hyde Park Corner” in London some 50 years ago where one soapbox orator was shouting: “What is sin? It is the creation of Canon Law!” I don’t wish to go in detail into it now.
And all know that the greatest contribution of the Catholic Church to humanity, to the world at large is the sense of GUILT which drives the guilt-ridden ignorant, credulous idiots go crawling to the confessional (long ago I too used to go, not any longer) where the wolves in sheep’s clothing find their prey aplenty to feed on, as the whole visual and printed media are celebrating the sexual exploits of the five Syromalankara priests – all married.
The whole Episcopal fraternity is well aware of it. That is why in the two synods of the family, many times they described themselves as ‘Holy, Catholic, apostolic sinners’. Take away sin and sinners? What will it do — the Church – to fend for itself? It will make the Church a PAUPER PAR EXCELLENCE! Wittingly though, our very devout grand parents used to ask and answer: “What is purgatory? It is the stomach of the Catholic Priest!”
Through Mass intentions in their thousands, rated variously from Rupees one hundred to thousands depending on their solemnity and other offerings, the Church accumulates money. They collect it for their service to wipe out sins faithful are trained to commit or resist. Take the case of one who asks you: “What is the best way to resist a temptation?” And answers: “Easy! Succumb to it instantly and for confession!” That is the way how sometimes sin is traded and quick money is made to quench hungry stomach of the priest. And the reward? You escape the fires of purgatory.
The five priests caught in misusing the confessional is the unforgettable lesson and wake-up call for all Christians, especially the women folks who are addicted to all kinds of church rituals including frequent confession.
With all the sins Augustine committed, he became a great saint, didn’t he?. So just forget about sin and confessional. What is called sin is the usual mistakes or blunders frail human beings make. He/she will continue to make till his/her death. That is why it is said: To err is human. Don’t use, be useful to people!
What is sin in popular parlance? It consists in USING people and virtue consists in BEING USEFUL to people. It is as simple as that. By sin we don’t offend God. A God who can be offended is no God. But due to our weakness we constantly offend our neighbour in thought, word and deed when we refuse to help the needy. Recall the list Jesus gives: “I was hungry, thirsty, lonely, in prison etc and you didn’t even took at me.” Try to avoid doing that.
Before God, if there is a God we are like little children, kids, learning to crawl or walk. Every a child tries to get up and falls,then we don’t say, it has committed a sin. We all continue to such children until we die. In any case when you die, you are definitely not going to Hell. Why because if there is a God of your description: “Goodness and love par excellence”,“Saccidananda = Sath+Chit+Ananda”, there can’t be a Hell. Use your light of reason and go ahead, peacefully and joyfully, is our advise. james kottoor, editor ccv.
Please read below our factually speaking Varghese Pamplanil
Chhotebhai seems to be mighty upset and displeased. He feels that the author of the book “Beyond Gods and Scriptures” has used the term “debauch” while referring to Augustine of Hippo (354- 430 C. E.). The author has denied the imputation saying that it was Voltaire who called Augustine so. If I recall correctly, Voltaire called Augustine a “debauchee”.
It seems to be appropriate to make the records as authentic as possible. I may be entering the sacred grove without the penitence expected of. Let me keep my fingers crossed while dealing with a prominent Christian icon. Naturally my observations may disturb the sensitivities of the the Church and the feelings of true Christians. After all the Church is much beholden to Augustine for providing it with a failsafe most effective tool to make the “goats” behave and fall in line:THE ORIGINAL SIN, THE MOTHER OF ALL SINS.
Who is this AUGUSTINE?
To make the story short : into a world, where Christianity had became a free faith and a Roman Emperor sponsored religion, Augustine came to interpret the defiance of the mythical Adam and Eve differently from his Jewish and Christian predecessors. Augustine construed the yarn of “eating the forbidden fruit by the mythical, first humans, Adam and Eve, against the express prohibition of their God” as the first sexual act between them spawning “ORIGINAL SIN”.
What was the thought for centuries prior to Augustine, as a tale of “human freedom”, became in his hands, the sordid story of human “bondage” and depravity. Augustine postulated that spontaneous sexual desire is the proof of and penalty for universal original sin, an idea that would have baffled most of his Christian predecessors who had already equivocally rejected the claims of some radical ones, that the sin of Adam and Eve was sexual – that the forbidden “Fruit of the Tree of Knowledge” converged to mean the “Carnal Knowledge” of Adam of Eve. Clement of Alexandria (180 C.E.) thought that the real story of Adam and Eve is “moral freedom and responsibility to choose good or evil”.
In order to understand Augustine’s anti-natural, even preposterous views, one has to delve into his personality and examine who he really was. Augustine was born in CE 354 in Carthage into a non-patrician family. His father Patricius Aurelius, a philanderer was habitually unfaithful to his wife. This parent failed to root out the brambles of lust from his son; on the contrary the womaniser father expressed immense pleasure in his son’s sexual appetite. Augustine’s Christian mother Monica, a devout Christian, endured her husband’s infidelities, but most earnestly implored her son not to commit fornication.
Augustine indulged in sexual pleasures and plunged into a life of the city, dinner parties, many friends theoretical performances and the like. An ambitious person, he sought secular career with singular intent.
After several sexual relationships, he lived with a lower caste woman concubine (he never disclosed her name in his “Confessions”) who indulged him by allowing full play of his unbridled sexual passions and cravings. Many commentators are prone to think that Augustine practised some sort of birth control measures to prevent his lover from getting pregnant, but failed. The concubine bore him a son, Adeodatus (born in CE372) when Augustine was of only 18 years of age.
Augustine abandoned his longstanding concubine, when a socially advantageous marriage proposal to a rich heiress was arranged by his mother. Augustine who was then 30 years of age had to wait for two years for the intended bride to attain marriageable age of 12. During the interim period of waiting for the marriage, he satisfied his sexual cravings by keeping another woman as his paramour.
The marriage proposal fizzled out. Meanwhile Augustine’s son, whom the father Augustine loved, died. A disillusioned Augustine turned to religion for solace.
It seems that when there is no other go, rakes and social dregs take refuge in religion as the last resort. Charismatic circuses are filled with drug pedlars, illicit, liquor brewers and similar types of criminals. These lampoon elements are deployed by those running these rackets to interpret the Bible and bear witness to the Word; Fr. Francis Sunil Rosario who does not seem to be comfortable with any one other than the uppity, know-all cassock-wearer daring to enter the hallowed ground appropriated by the Catholic Church, may please take note of the ground situation. About the right of a non-cassock wearer to deal with the so called Christian theology, I may express my views later.
Constantine legitimised Pauline Christianity in CE 313 and introduced his version of the religion in the Council of Nicene in 323. The cold-blooded butcher from Spain, Emperor Theodosius imposed the Edict ‘Cunctos Populos (Edict of Thessalonica) issued on 27 February 380 ruthlessly. This facilitated the rapid growth and spread of Christianity, the sole State Religion of the Empire. The followers of other beliefs were wiped out by putting them to death or banishing them from the Empire and Christianity flourished.
Temperamentally, an ambitious careerist, Augustine became a Christian in CE 387, at the age of 32 and joined the expanding Church of Ambrose. Barely 4 years after his baptism to Christianity he became a bishop (391 CE). He did what any over ambitious careerist would do. Augustine, the opportunist, was notorious for changing his stand to further his ambitions.
The death of his son whom he loved dearly and the setback to his socially and financially advantageous marriage proposal would have made Augustine a proponent of “anti life” philosophy and to fulminate against human sexuality. But the “celibate (?)” Augustine, by his own admission was insatiable for sex. Augustine, who never married and whose experience of sexual pleasures was illicit and guilt-provoking, assumes that frustrated sexual desire is universal, infinite and all consuming. With what appropriate name other than “debauch’ can Augustine be called, Chhotabhai? If there is any other demeaning name for him in your mind, it may please be shared.
Augustine spent the last twelve years of his life battling for his interpretation of the Genesis against a young Christian bishop, Julian of Eelanum who attacked and criticised Augustine’s dogma of Original Sin not only as an abrupt departure from orthodox Christian thought but also as a Manichaen heresy, the very heresy Augustine had once admired and later attacked.
Julian was restrained in sexual matters; he was married to a bishop’s daughter. He viewed sexual desire as innocent, divinely blessed and once satisfied, entirely finite. For Julian death was a natural process. But for Augustine, death is the result of Adam’s sin. The irony: Julian was branded a heretic, Augustine declared a saint.
Why did Catholic Christianity adopt Augustine’s paradoxical and preposterous views? Some historians suggest that such beliefs validate the authority of the Church; for if human condition is decease, Catholic Christianity, acting as the good physician offers the spiritual medication and the discipline that alone can cure it. Augustine’s views did serve the Christian State and imperially supported the Church. Augustine’s theory offered an analysis of human nature that impacted the psychological, moral and even political thinking of Christians ever since. Even today Christians, Catholics and Protestants alike regard the story of Adam and Eve synonymous with universal original sin.
The Catholic Church gleefully latched itself to another bizarre idea of Augustine that the sacraments administered even by the most degenerate clerics (Robin and Franco types) are valid and beneficial to the human soul. It is no wonder that Augustine is elevated to the status of “Doctor of the Church” as model, pristine, pure, blameless and repentent Saint. It offers great opportunity to all womanisers and child abusers to claim impeccable moral behaviour. At the most they have to undergo sham confession to another incorrigible character. PRAISE THE LORD, OR IS IT THE DOG ?
Helmut Koestler, Professor of New Testament, Harvard University asks: “How it happened that the Christian tradition came to find sexual desire sinful and to claim that infants, from the moment of their conception are tainted with original sin; that Adam’s sin corrupted the whole nature, which until then had known neither death nor labour nor suffering? How did it happen that the Christian Church which proclaims the infinite value and moral freedom of each individual, came to insist that human kind, made in God’s image chose not to sin? This great paradox is at the core of the heart of the Christian tradition. AMMEN AMMEN AMMEN.
P.S. About the authorship the New Testament/Gospels I may join the issue later.